Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Dec. 31, 2016
Staff at the Fox Valley Labor News looks back at 2015’s Top Ten stories that impacted Labor and you – was your pick No. 1?
‘If we must, we will withhold our labor’
The call for a strike by members of the Chicago Teachers Union came weeks before the year ended, but it’s still important enough to make our Top Ten lest this year.
An overwhelming majority of the Chicago Teachers Union, 88 percent, voted Dec. 14 to allow union leaders to call for a strike. It will be several months before the union decides whether to actually begin a strike. First, they’re going on a “fact-finding mission” in one last effort to resolve the negotiations.
If they do decide to walk out of their classrooms, it will be the second time the union — which has 27,000 members and serves the nation’s third largest school district in the nation — has gone on strike in just a few years.
Archbishop Blase Cupich supports labor
In a speech to union members in September, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich pledged his support and that of the Catholic Church to strengthening the labor movement, talking about the principles of solidarity and the protection of the dignity of workers that link the labor movement and the Catholic Church together.
The Archbishop detailed expectations union members can have of the Archdiocese, pledging the church will be a prominent voice and ally in standing up for workers’ rights. Cupich directly challenged the measures of Right to Work laws.
Secret TPP text unveiled – it’s worse than we thought
As one would expect with a deal negotiated behind closed doors with 500 corporate advisers and the public and press shut out — the agreement helps big business — not everyday Americans.
It’s predicted the deal will cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing, which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses.
The TPP would make it easier for corporations to offshore American jobs and would push down wages by throwing Americans into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents an hour. It does nothing to stop international rule breakers — and countries like China will once again be the winners.
Scabby the Rat stands strong
We couldn’t have a complete Top Ten list without the mention of Scabby the Rat and his Fat Cat counterpart. Without fail, these inflatables have stood strong for union members, helping secure union contracts and raising awareness of businesses using non-signatory contractors.
Scabby shows up everywhere! He’s been spotted at Twin Peaks restaurant in Warrenville; in Schaumburg protesting Miller Concrete Construction; in Niles supporting Chicago-area Coco-Cola refreshment workers on strike; in Westmont where LiUNA Local 68 was protesting Prime and in East Dundee where he was supporting locked out members of IAM Automobile Mechanics Local 701 when members picketed Al Piemonte Chevrolet.
CPS financial mess
The mess that is the Chicago Public School system has suffered one blunder after another. The federal investigation into CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett role in a $20 million no-bid contract to the SUPES Academy was a major shady deal. Her departure hasn’t helped matters. After a year-long talk of a possible strike, teachers voted this month to authorize a strike.
After years of budget gimmicks and massive borrowing, CPS approved an operating budget, but it depended on a half-billion dollars’ worth of money from Springfield — which has yet to materialize. CPS is now looking at laying off thousands of teachers. Parents have turned to hunger strikes to get recognition for the plights of their children and their schools. Special education spending was cut and parents are still feeling the pain of 50 school closings in 2013.
Fast food and retail workers Fight for $15
For the third year in a row, the call-to-action Fight for $15 campaign shows up in our Top Ten. This year, we saw Los Angeles, New York and other cities raise the minimum wage for their citizens.
Locally, the Fight for $15 campaign delivered 1.4 million petitions to McDonald’s shareholder meeting, urging hourly wages for the burger giant’s front-line workers be increased to $15 an hour.
In April Tens of thousands of workers from all low wage sectors and communities across America and the world made history in a massive mobilization for better pay, respect, and corporate accountability.
Effective July 1, McDonald’s increased starting wages to $1 above the local minimum at 1,500 company-owned restaurants. It does not effect franchisees, which operate the majority of U.S. restaurants.
Organized labor takes on big projects
Organized labor rose to the challenge when it came to constructing projects in 2015 throughout the Chicagoland area. This month, CISCO will present its 2015 Pride in Construction Awards, which range from medical centers and parks to apartments and lofts.
In Aurora, the building trades were praised for their craftsmanship on the new Aurora library, a $28 million project, and for expansions to the Premium Outlet Mall and the Wrigley Manufacturing Co. in Yorkville.
Some Chicago construction included the Madison Racine Apartments, Cancer Treatment Center of America, Maggie Daley Park, Lemont Wet Weather Treatment Facility & Reservoir, Bensenville Police & Emergency Management Headquarters and AMLI Lofts.
Sanders VS Clinton
Who’s going to win the Democratic nomination for president — Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton? Time will tell. Top national labor unions have backed both candidates for different reasons. National leaders at SEIU announced an official endorsement of Clinton, despite Sanders getting a lot of support from local chapters. The American Postal Workers Union, the United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United are backing Sanders. Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is also helping lead the effort for Team Bernie.
At first, organized labor was hesitant to back Clinton — due to her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But along with SEIU backing Clinton, so is the American Federation of Teachers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.
Both Clinton and Sanders are succeeding by addressing some pretty mainstream issues: raising the minimum wage, equal pay protections for women, paid family leave, making college affordable, and universal background checks for gun purchases. The Democrats are not insulting each other and they are not spinning fantastic conspiracy theories — unlike the candidates on the GOP side.
Who’s the craziest GOP presidential nominee?
The opportunity to run for president on the GOP ticket has turned into 3 ring circus. The presidential hopefuls have been whittled down from 17. Hands down, Donald Trump leads the pack of dimwits. Unfortunately, little can stop the rise of Trump. No matter how offensive or nonsensical his views, the millionaire businessman keeps doing better and better in the polls. From his views on Hillary Clinton’s inability to please her husband to his attacks on the physical appearance of other women, Trump proves time and time again what an ass he is.
We can’t forget how he suggested John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, or how he characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Trump would also like to date his daughter Ivanka, you know, if she wasn’t already his DAUGHTER.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-worker obsession
Illinois closes out 2015 and heads into 2016 without a state budget and with a governor at the helm doing nothing to remedy the issue. All year, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has pushed his Turnaround Agenda onto cities and municipalities, all in the hopes it will be approved so he can limit collective bargaining and the rights of workers injured on the job – hurting the middle class. Without a budget since July 1, vital human service agencies that receive state funding are hurting. As cities and municipalities consider Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, organized labor has shown up in droves to voice their concerns on Rauner’s anti-worker tactics, the elimination of prevailing wage and the implementation of right to work zones, which would strip workers of their right to form strong unions and bargain for a better life.